The intricate rules the Senate follows when it meets as the “Committee of the Whole” in its 14th Order of business to amend bills have their quirks. Today saw a few. In one, Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, an accountant, was arguing in detail for a complicated amendment to a property tax bill, when he was cut off – his 5 minutes to debate were up. Hill quickly sat down, blushing, but then there was no debate against the proposal, so he was immediately given another 5 minutes to close debate and asked to stand up again.
In another, Sen. David Langhorst, D-Boise, had proposed an amendment to strike the enacting clause of the bill to shift school operations funding off the property tax. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, leapt up and cited an obscure rule that he said states that a motion to strike an enacting clause is a non-debatable motion – so no one, including Langhorst, should be allowed to say anything for or against that amendment. Senators from both parties quickly huddled in the aisle of the Senate, each waving their rule books, as Davis brandished his and pointed to it. In the end, the ruling went in Davis’ favor, and no arguments either way were allowed on the Democrat’s amendment – it was voted down without debate. Never mind that many in the Senate can remember previous amendments striking the enacting clauses of bills – and the debates on them.